Devin Duvernay wore many hats for the Ravens, and now that he’s been placed on injured reserve, his absence will be another challenge for Baltimore's offense.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman deployed Duvernay as a receiver (37 catches, 407 yards, three touchdowns) and runner on jet sweeps (12 carries, 84 yards). The Ravens signed veteran Sammy Watkins to help pick up the slack, but Roman said it's going to take a group effort to replace Duvernay.
"It's a big loss," Roman said. "Devin was having a great year in a lot of different ways. We'll have to shift gears a little bit without him. But we really feel like they're some guys who can step in and do some of the things he was doing. That's the good news.
"Losing Devin, you can't just say, 'Hey, let's keep rolling.' We're going to have to make some changes. Guys are going to have to step up."
Demarcus Robinson, Proche, DeSean Jackson and Watkins will be asked to step up at wide receiver, and there could also be more targets for tight ends Mark Andrews, Isaiah Likely and Josh Oliver.
Duvernay was also a Pro Bowl returner. On special teams, James Proche II and Justice Hill are among the candidates who could fill in for Duvernay as returners.
Duvernay, who had a 103-yard kickoff return against the Dolphins in Week 2, was averaging 11.9 yards per punt return this season. But the Ravens always have high expectations for their special teams, and losing Duvernay won't change that.
"We have guys that will come in and fill that role," Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton said. "The biggest thing for us is just to go out there and execute all 11. I think those plays will take care of themselves."
Greg Roman Discusses Going Into Hurry-Up Mode in Cleveland
With the Ravens trailing 13-3 in Cleveland, J.K. Dobbins ripped off a 37-yard run that gave them a first-and-10 at their own 46 with 43 seconds left in the third quarter. That was the last time Dobbins touched the ball, despite rushing for 125 yards on 13 carries.
Baltimore went to a hurry-up offense in the fourth quarter, hoping to move the ball quickly through the air. But the Ravens never scored again, and Roman said he could understand why some would argue that Baltimore could have stayed with the ground attack a little longer.
"We were really just trying to change the tempo, spark ourselves a little bit," Roman said. "We were moving it really well on the ground for sure and some quick passes. Could we have stayed into that mode more? Probably. On Monday, it's always easy to say that.
"We were down two scores and we got into a different mode. Would I have gotten into that mode that early? It's debatable. I usually wouldn't get into it that early. You can go back and second guess that all you want. But that's really the reason, got more into a hurry-up mode."
The Ravens rushed for 198 yards in Cleveland yet only scored three points, wasting a game in which their offensive line was dominant. Becoming more efficient offensively remains the biggest challenge on their plate this week.
"We have to get things right as an offense," Roman said. "So, when it's not, we have to confront it and recognize it for what it is; it's that simple."
Falcons Run Game Has Been on Par With Baltimore's
Saturday's Ravens-Falcons matchup will feature a battle between two premier running attacks. Baltimore is second in the NFL in rushing averaging 164.7 yards per game, while the Falcons are third just a shade behind Baltimore at 164.1 yards per game.
Atlanta has a rookie running back who's coming into his own, fifth-round pick Tyler Allgeier, who's averaging 5.0 yards per carry and rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown against the Saints in Week 15. Cordarrelle Patterson (658 yards rushing) is also having a strong season.
The Falcons (5-9) have had trouble producing big plays, but they are a physical running team that will present a huge challenge for Baltimore's defense that may be veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell (knee).
Atlanta uses a lot of wide-zone runs, which will test Baltimore's ability to fill gaps horizontally and make sure no lanes open up on the move. Macdonald said the Falcons use a lot of heavy personnel similar to the Ravens offense.
"In order to defend an offense like this, you've got to be lined up, ready to go; you've got to be on your P's and Q's with communication," Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald said. "They do a good job of stressing you, and when you make mistakes, and when you're not aligned right, they make you pay. Everyone has got to be on the same page."